Dharmic Ecology: Perspectives from the Swadhyaya Practitioners Page: 309
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R Jain /Worldvieas 13 (2009) 305-320 309
Athavale explained several ethical qualities that humans can learn from
the trees. Trees develop a fixed bonding with the land. Trees are forever
connected with the land that supports them. They grow at one place and
provide shelter to others. They are stable and withstand all natural phe-
nomena such as thunderstorms, cold winters, and hot summers with
courage and patience. Athavale compared the Hindu god Siva, who drank
poison so that other gods could get nectar, with the trees which intake
carbon dioxide so that others can get oxygen. Athavale also preached that
the trees provide fruits even to those who throw stones; they provide roots
and herbs for medicines, leaves and flowers for sacred rituals, fruits for
physical strength, timber for construction, and shelter for travelers. In this
way, they sacrifice all their parts for others without any expectation of
gratitude in return. They have no false pride for all the charity they do for
others. They serve as the ideal role model for ethics and they are wonder-
ful gifts from God. Here, Athavale describes inherent qualities and virtues
of trees, i.e., the dharma ofa tree. According to him, by observing and fol-
lowing the dharmic qualities of a tree, one can develop one's moral and
ethical qualities, the dharma ofa human being Here, we see several mean-
ings of dharma interplaying with each other. The dharma, inherent qual-
ity, can inspire the dharma, virtue, and this can help develop the dharma
for the environment, environmental ethics.
Athavale then goes on to cite several texts about the above-mentioned
dharmic interplay of meanings. According to his interpretation of the
Bhagavad Gita (15.1), this world is the advattha tree whose leaves are
the Vedas.5 Just as the leaves decorate a tree, Vedic knowledge decorates
the world. Athavale also cited Shakespeare's appreciation of nature from
As You Like It, "Tongues in tree, books in running brooks, sermons in
stones, and good in everything (sic)... Under the Greenwood tree, who
loves to lie with me?... Turn his merry note, unto the sweet bird's throat!
Come hither, Come hither, Come hither, here shall he see, no enemy, but
winter and rough weather." He cited Kalidasa's Raghuvamna to show that
) Urdhva-mulam adhah-Sakham aivatthamprahuravyaya. chandamsi yasyaparnaniyasta
veda sa vedavit (Bhagavad Gita 15.1). Literally, it is said that there is an imperishable ban-
yan tree that has its roots upward, branches down, and whose leaves are the Vedic hymns.
One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas. (In this article, all translations from
Sanskrit, Hindi, and Gujarati are mine.)
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Jain, Pankaj. Dharmic Ecology: Perspectives from the Swadhyaya Practitioners, article, 2009; [Leiden, Netherlands]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc38896/m1/5/: accessed April 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Public Affairs and Community Service.